Sunday, 30 April 2017

The Last Midsummer Banquet - The Chairman

Int, artificial light

A  Government office. 

Six officials – five male, one female – sit round a table, debating tactics.  Two of them never speak, just nod, smile and take notes.  The Chairman is clearly in control, and is clearly insane.


(calming hand motions):  Please, please ... please.  We are more than prepared to listen to everything anyone might conceivably have to contribute.  (smiles round the table)  What we are not prepared to do is admit that I’m wrong.  Is that clear?

Official #2:

Um –


What have we achieved?  We outlawed, let’s see, illegitimacy, unemployment, most diseases – in short, anything that costs us money – but our greatest achievement has been uncertainty.  Uncertainty.  Our greatest achievement has been that now, nobody can be sure what is or is not permitted!  We must find ways of sustaining this.

Official #2:

Sustaining uncertainty?  That’s a bit of a difficult concept to sustain, I mean I’m not quite certain about that but, um 


We must sustain uncertainty.  It sustains stability!  If they have an absolute, like these Banquets, if they have this, this Walpurgis night on which anything seems to be permitted, then they focus on the opposite, the other three hundred and whatever days on which nothing seems to be – they focus on the notion of prohibition – and that’s the last thing we want, is it not? (he looks enquiringly round the table)

Official #1:

Your point is well made Chairman.  Just on a niggle of detail, Walpurgis night is actually the thirtieth of April, not Midsummer’s –


So we’re agreed I think.  (Silence)  That is to say, nobody disagrees with ... us?  (More silence) 

Official #1:

Agreed.  Nobody quite disagrees?  But – more like … not quite entirely agree?  Entirely? 

Official #2:

Entirely!  I mean exactly.  I mean precisely!  (glances at Official #4) I mean, Norman, you’re the expert in all this sort of stuff –


Gentlemen, gentlemen – and madam of course – we do need a consensus here.  I’ve stated very precisely what that is, and I expect you to agree with me.  That’s my final word I’m afraid.

Official #1:

Did you say ‘afraid’?

Official #3:

Just run it up once more, for a little lady please?

Official #2:

Oh come now Sykya, no need to patronise –

Official #1:

All the same I think I’m behind Sykya here.  My issue is one of presentation.  We need a short sharp bang bang bang one two three bullet approach here –

Official #3:

Has it come to actual bullets then?


(He bangs the desk - it sounds like a gunshot):  Very well.  Bullet one (bang).  Music as a panacea has failed.  Diluted to a cheap substitute for the real economy.  Bullet two (bang).  We are out of money.  We cannot afford any more of these Banquets.  Bullet three (bang).  Research shows that the Banquets, in their support of the idea of ‘free’ music as a calming influence, have actually had the opposite effect, have actually induced what I might call terrorist activities –

Official #2:

Hardly terrorism though, is it?  A few bricks, scrawls on walls … even playing guitars isn’t quite –

Official #1:

So we need to kill free music.

Official #3:

Which means killing the Banquets.


(bang)  Bullet four. 

Official #2:

Wasn’t it ‘bang bang bang’, that’s three, not –


The solution. (smirks)  Loyalty oaths.

Perplexed glances whizz in both directions round the meeting.

Official #3:

Hang on.  This is new.  You have never mentioned loyalty oaths –


No, of course, I do apologise, this is freshly minted new-laid slashing edge thinking.  Let me explain.  Before being allowed to leave the Banquet Hall, each participant will be required to sign a document renouncing their rights to any future events of this nature, or, or they get – (makes circular shrugging hand gestures)

Official #3:

They get?


Well …  Arrested?  Amputated?  I don’t know, I’m policy, it’s up to you people to put the flesh on it –


Flesh?  Hmm ...

Official #3:



(a final gunshot table fist bang):  I want them.  They’re an irritant.  Grit under the foreskin.  I want them.  (stares at Official #4)  Norman.  Implement.  Kill music. 

Norman’s face springs into a rigid, fixed grin, transfixed with terror.

Friday, 28 April 2017

The Last Misummer Banquet (introduction)

Text on blank screen:


Once upon a time in the future, in a part of what was once Britain ...



(voice over, concurrent with the text, which fades with the sound): Once upon a time in the future, in a small part of what was once Britain …

As the text on the screen fades away, whispering half-audible voices mutter conspiracies:

Conspirator #1:

... the most subversive power in the land ...

Conspirator #2:

... subversive, must be ...

Conspirator #1:

... banned ...

Conspirator #2:

... must be banned, yes, the most subversive power, yes ...


... must be    Music!

Text on screen flashes and slowly fades



Ext, day

A huge pile of guitars, keyboards, drums, every conceivable sort of musical instrument, stacked up on a patch of waste land.

Close up of a Machine pointing a gun-like appendage at the instruments, which burst into flames.  We see this bonfire from several viewpoints.

Fade to blank screen


(voice over): So, music was banned. 

Obviously, you can’t do that.  It’s like banning hearing and breathing.

So after a while, they back off a bit.  OK, some music can be allowed.   Conforming to defined guidelines, mechanically constructed in officially approved music factories, by suitably trained mechanically qualified ‘resources’  – well OK, that can be allowed. 

But don’t try it on your own, don’t try it at home.  Unauthorised music, human music, that stuff’s well and truly banned!   

Well, after another while – a very little while – they saw that people might not like this either, might get a bit, let’s say, fractious.  So, it was decreed that each year, on Midsummer Night, there will happen A Great Banquet!

Text on screen flashes and slowly fades


A Great Banquet!!!


Fade up shadowy images of huddled conspirators.  Voices over:

Conspirator  #1:

… a Great Banquet, in a Great Banquet Hall –

Conspirator #2:

… everyone invited, things might even be permitted  

Conspirator #1:

… even their own music 

Text on blank screen





 Their own music?  Allow them their own music?  Human music?  For a few hours a year?  Bad idea!

Ext, day.  twilight

The bonfire of the musical instruments.  Shadowy figures dart in and snatch more or less unscathed guitars, drums, saxophones, gongs, dulcimers being salvaged and snuck away to secret hiding places.

Fade to blank screen

Ext, night and day: split screen

Dissolving close-ups of people learning to play their stolen musical instruments; raiding parties stealing stuff from shops, fuel depots, etc; people cultivating, harvesting, cooking, eating their own food ...

Text on blank screen


Some years later



Very bad idea!



Text on blank screen


June twenty-fourth, this year

Crash on soundtrack.


So, is this going to be the Last Midsummer Banquet?


Title on logo screen:

The Last Midsummer Banquet

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Caravan diaries (cont'd)

We had to collect some chickens from Herefordshire and bring them back to Norfolk, so the obvious thing to do was go to Reading, go to Pembrokeshire, open up the caravan, stay there for a few days, go to Herefordshire, pick up the chickens, go to Reading, and come back to Norfolk.  And so it came to pass.  About thirteen hours driving in all, but I don’t mind that.

Opening up the caravan is usually straightforward – you put the drain taps and the shower mixer back in, sweep up the dead flies, clean the green gunge off the outside walls and cut the grass.  This time, normality had gone slightly adrift.  The grass hardly needed cutting (Joseph has a new mower, which goes almost all the way up the slope in front of the van, which used to be entirely my responsibility). Far less green gunge than usual (the overhanging sycamores have been fairly ruthlessly pruned, although not enough for my liking – they’re still above ground level, vile weeds).  No dead flies at all (once some years ago I could hardly see the carpet for them, which was when I started spraying with Raid or Flit on departure, which helped but a few would still get through). 

The plumbing, though, proved unusually problematic.  Joseph had told me, ages ago, that the thing to do in the autumn was unscrew the four drain taps and just remove them.  Of course, he now denies this, and tells me I should have been following a whole different procedure, the detail of which is too boring to relate… anyway, I had several leaks, the last at about 3 a.m.  But once he’d fixed the underlying cause – a crossed thread – all was well and dry, and the problem will never happen again.

After that, it was just as it’s meant to be.  We walked through the tunnels to Saundersfoot (I wanted to make ghosty noises in the long one, like when I was eight, but didn’t want to scare Z), had a nice fish lunch at the Mermaid (now rebranded the Beach View, which is more accurate but less romantic, but otherwise unchanged in twenty years), walked around Tenby, watched the pale everchanging colours of the flat calm sea, failed to connect to the internet… everything as it should be.  No rabbits so far.

The chickens are gorgeous.  Z will no doubt tell you all about them.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Top Ten Top Tens

This is an experiment.

I /haven’t had a good list for ages.  So here are my ten best lists, with a starter of one from me in each.  Please submit yours via the comments, and I’ll update.  I’ve set a few of my own ground rules, but feel free to ignore these.

Films (no CGI blockbusters):

Rio Bravo
Local Hero (2)
Monty Python and The Holy Grail
The Quiet Man
4 Weddings and a Funeral (I know, but there it is)
To Have and Have Not
Perhaps something Scandinavian like the one with the knight and death playing chess
Blues Brothers
The big sleep

Albums (no Beatles/Stones/Dylan/Beach Boys/Led Zep):

Janis Ian: Night Rains
Sand andWater - Beth Nielsen Chapman
Solitude Standing - Suzanne Vega
"Whatever people say I am, That's what I'm not" by Arctic Monkeys
The Main Event-Frank Sinatra
Pictures at an Exhibition by ELP

Jimi Hendrix - Electric Ladyland
Gallagher's Irish Tour
Still Crazy After All These Years Paul Simon
Crime of the century - Supertramp

Singles (ditto):

Dion: The Wanderer
Heartbreak Hotel - Elvis Presley
Because They're Young - Duane Eddy
"Paradise City" by Guns 'n' Roses
Somewhere Over the Rainbow-Israel Kamakawiwo ole
Will You by Hazel O'Connor (for the sax break)
Old 97's - Designs On You
Teach Your Children Well

Mystery Train Elvis Presley
Drive in Saturday - Bowie

Novels (not over 500ish pages):

Albert Camus: The Outsider
Snow falling on cedars - David Guterson
Billy Liar - Keith Waterhouse
"Behind The Scenes at The Museum" by Kate Akinson.
To Kill a Mockingbird-Harper Lee
Guards, Guards by Terry Pratchett
Vanity Fair
Merrilie Watkins Series Phil Rickman
A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich


J K Galbraith: The Affluent Society
Sapiens - Yuval Noah Harari
Steve Jobs - Walter Isaacson
"Pies and Prejudice" by Stuart Maconie
The Shepherd's Life,-James Rebanks
Roger Deakin - Waterlog
Charlie Marx, Das Kapital
Atlases, Maps, and books about maps
The selfish gene -Dawkins

Musicals (no Rodgers and Hammerstein):

West Side Story (2)
We will Rock You - Queen and Ben Elton
"Chicago" (Bob Fosse and Fred Ebb)
Les Miserables

Rocky Horror Picture Show
Oklahoma (obvs)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers


Fresh crab
John Dory with samphire
Sticky toffee pudding
fresh Pacific salmon
Pie, or failing that, big lumps of meat in gravy
I am a greedy git who loves to eat everything
Leek quiche with wholemeal pastry
New Season Asparagus
Stew and dumplings


The Knoll Beach, Studland
Camusdarach, Morar, Highland (Ben's Beach)
Paris (2)
The Backwaters, Kerala, India
Anything Greek, best on an island


Through the tunnels, Wisemans Bridge – Saundersfoot
Cycling (e-bike) through the Ardnamurchan caldera between Kilchoan and Sanna Bay, Lochaber
The Way of the Roses c2c bike
Riding the Paris Metro out to Montmartre.
the train from Chester to Wales
Batobus on the Seine
The last bit of a journey to somewhere you love, when you recognise landmarks that mean you're nearly there and become excited

Train rides
JFK to Manhattan
Peterborough to Stansted airport


Morris Minor
Electric bike
Raleigh Pioneer 2 (ladies model)
The steam locomotive
Deux chevaux
Vincent Black Shadow
Austin Healey Sprite
Jaguar XJ6 4.2 litre
Porsche 911, do not know the version blabla, just pedaltothemedal and blam